In the glass world, the words “Steuben crystal” prompt numerous nostalgic reactions. Some may think of brilliant sculptural pieces gifted by U.S. presidents for decades; some may have fond memories of visiting the flagship Steuben store in Manhattan; some may reflect on the prismatic champagne flutes used on their wedding day, and some may think of how disappointed they were when Steuben ceased operations in 2011. However, what some people may not realize is that the Steuben brand was reacquired by Corning Incorporated in 2011, licensed to The Corning Museum of Glass in 2013, and is very much alive and well in 2020.
A brief history of the Steuben brand
Founded in 1903, Steuben, under the leadership of Frederick Carder, originally focused on producing colored glass much like other European glass companies at the time. Corning Glass Works (now Corning Incorporated) acquired the brand in 1918. In 1932, the proprietary formula that Steuben is best known for was developed. The glass produced from this formula has a high refractive index, causing cascades of rainbows to emit from the glass when hit by light. The development of this hallmark crystal led to all colored glass eventually being phased out of production in favor of this new, clear alternative. This signified a seismic shift in the Steuben brand – one that remains intact to this day.
Steuben soon became a cornerstone in American crystal, making notable appearances in exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Louvre, the National Museum of Art, the Toledo Museum of Art, and more. Since 1947, pieces of Steuben have been presented as gifts of state by every U.S. President, and in 1951, The Corning Museum of Glass opened in a building attached to the Steuben factory. This provided visitors a unique, first-hand view of the craftsmanship behind the Steuben brand. Steuben has also made notable appearances in films like “Risky Business” and “The Golden Bowl.”
In 2008, Steuben was sold to Schottenstein Stores Corp., and three years later in 2011, Schottenstein announced they would end production of Steuben, leading to the closure of both the Corning, NY factory and New York City store. That same year, Corning Incorporated reacquired the Steuben brand and two years later, licensed The Corning Museum of Glass to be the primary stewards of the beloved crystal company. Steuben is currently housed here to this day.
Steuben was founded on the principle of craftsmanship and luxury and has continued working at the highest standard for over 100 years. While production is smaller than it once was, Steuben is still crafted in artisanal hot shops with original suppliers using the same attention to detail and standards of excellence. Recent special commission projects include the 2019 Premier Lacrosse League championship trophy, the first-, second-, and third-place trophies for the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series at Watkins Glen International, and the 2016 Louis Vuitton World Series trophy for America’s Cup Sailboat Racing. Steuben also offers personalization options for select pieces and bases – the perfect way to add a personal touch to an already one-of-a-kind piece. Designs both new and old are still being produced and are available for purchase online at steuben.com, at select retail locations around the country, and at The Corning Museum of Glass Shops.
The relationship between Steuben and the Museum is quite special and continues to flourish to this day. Corning is home to the Frederick Carder Gallery, an extensive collection of Carder-era Steuben glass. In the Museum’s galleries, you’ll find countless pieces of modern Steuben, including goblets, vases, and many other iconic ornamental pieces. Perhaps the most striking representation of the Museum’s and Steuben’s longstanding relationship is seen through the 2015 renovation of the original Steuben factory. The factory, once adjacent to the Museum, was transformed into the Amphitheater Hot Shop, one of the world’s largest facilities for glassblowing demonstrations and live glass design sessions. This new hot shop, an integral part of the Museum’s current structure, preserves the footprint of the original Steuben factory, keeping alive an important cornerstone in American glass design.
For those with an avid reminiscence of Steuben, we hope to continue adding to those memories for years to come. Until you’re able to visit The Corning Museum of Glass again, we invite you to browse the Frederick Carder Gallery online, along with the countless pieces in the Museum’s permanent collection. If you’re interested in a deeper dive into Steuben’s history, check out this brand timeline on our website. You’ll also find our current product selection, personalization options, how to inquire about a special commission, and more.